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5 ways to use customer personalisation to reduce returns

By Regina Henkel

Sep 25, 2020

For fashion retailers, returns are associated with enormous time and cost expenditures. Those who find ways to reduce the volume of their returns save money for themselves and time and trouble for their customers. Onsite personalisation, i.e. a personalised AI-supported webshop, can help.

When it comes to returns, the fashion industry is hit particularly hard: Stores have to deal with return rates of up to 60 percent. But innovative technologies can help reduce these high return rates. German technology company Trbo is one of the leading technology providers for dynamic onsite personalisation, optimisation and testing. With AI-based platform from Trbo, website content and product ranges can be customised - in real time, based on the needs of customers on their customer journey. For this purpose, a self-learning algorithm analyses user behavior based on over 50 visitor characteristics. Among Trbo’s customers are Triumph, Vertbaudet, Ströer and XXXLutz. We asked the Munich-based company what tricks webshops can use to lower their return rates.

1. Avoiding returns through better size information

Whether a pair of jeans fits or not can usually not be determined by the specified size alone. Providing size tables in the form of links or overlays is a first step when it comes to avoiding shipping the wrong size. But careful: What seems simple at first is a challenge for many stores - especially those with a frequently changing product range. In practice, it is often not at all trivial to make the corresponding size table for a particular product. “Often, lead times from in-house IT are long,” explains Felix Schirl, CEO of Trbo. “An external tool can help.”

Online retailers who do not want to burden their customers by comparing various measurements in tables, can also go a step further and integrate real advisory functions in their webshop. But even this requires a certain amount of resources or relying on external tools. These size consultants then work mostly with a predefined range of questions and users enter their measurements, body height, weight and other characteristics. In the end, they get a specific suitable size. It applies to all solutions that any form of consultation should be prominently displayed in the store. The best way is a clearly visible link in the size selection part of the product page, so that the customer knows about this service.

2. Considering the experiences of other users

Many product sizes turn out differently than expected. Suddenly, someone who normally wears size 38 only fits into size 40 or vice versa. This uncertainty can be taken away from users already during the purchasing process by drawing on product experience of other users. Were there many returns with the reason “larger than expected”? Or was it often stated in feedback surveys that the pants seemed much smaller than those of other brands? “This data is important and should be mentioned on the product page,” says Schirl. This is the perfect place for a note, for example “product sizes are larger than usual, consider ordering a smaller size”.

3. Enriching product pages with more information and additional products

Another, often mentioned reason for returns: The product does not meet expectations. A pair of jeans could be much too skinny or a blouse, expected to be made from a matte material, could be too shiny. This often only becomes apparent when unwrapping the order. “This is why online retailers should provide users with as much information as possible on the product pages already, so that imagination and reality match as closely as possible,” says Schirl. Thus, information about material, fit and other important descriptions are a must on the website.

In addition to all available product information, suitable other products or alternatives should also be shown because product recommendations are part of a perfect consultation in an online store. Intelligent algorithms help with finding the right recommendations. “They take the user behavior on the page into account, the user’s interests and the different steps along the customer journey,” explains Schirl. Instead of only the top sellers, exactly those products will be shown that the user may actually be interested in.

4. Scoring with personal consultations

Even though size consultants, tables and much product information are well placed on a page, many users will still be unsure or often have no desire to obtain detailed information. Retailers can score points here through the option of offering a personal consultation from customer service. This can be done either directly on the website via chat functions or chat bots or via communication with real people. “In any case, it makes sense to include customer service contact details on product pages,” advises Schirl. “This way, all users quickly receive the help they need.”

5. Rewarding users that have low return rates

Of course they exist too: e-tailers’ “favorite customers” who never or very rarely send anything back. “That should be rewarded, at least once in a while”, recommends Schirl. For example, an overlay can be displayed in the webshop as soon as the user logs in, which offers a directly redeemable coupon code as a big thank you. Those who feel like it can even have confetti rain on the site in celebration of the low return rate. This will certainly remain in users’ memory. This way, they are playfully guided into keeping returns low in the future as well (and maybe even tell their friends and family about it).

Online retailers can therefore already work on keeping returns to a minimum during the purchasing process. The best way to find out which measures work particularly well in this context is to conduct A/B and multivariate tests. Besides more service, this means less returns and also the chance to stand out from the competition as a fashion retailer and to improve customer loyalty.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.

Photo: Oleg Mityukhin via Pixabay